St. Mary's Church

Bergen, Norway

St Mary"s Church (Mariakirken) construction is believed to have started in the 1130s or 40s and completed around 1180, making the church the oldest remaining building in Bergen. St Mary"s Church is the only remaining of twelve churches and three monasteries built in Bergen between its foundation during the reign of Olav Kyrre (1066–93, traditionally 1070) and the end of the twelfth century. Excavations have revealed the remains of an earlier stone church on the site, probably never completed. The exact year of the current church completion is unknown, but the church is mentioned in Sverris saga as where the rebels of the Birkebein Party sought refuge when attacked by a peasant army in 1183. St Mary"s Church is likely to have been built by craftsmen from Scania, then part of Denmark. The church"s style is remiscient of that of Lund Cathedral in Scania.

St Mary"s Church was significantly damaged in the town fire of 1198, caused by an attack on the city by the Bagli Party, enemies of the Birkebein Party. The rebuilding resulted in several architectural changes. Bergen burned again in 1248, a fire which caused an even greater degree of destruction to the church than the earlier fire. As part of the reconstruction after this fire, the towers were heightened and the chancel lengthened. The church was damaged in several later town fires, but never again destroyed to the same degree as in the fire of 1248.

Although having been built as a parish church for the Norwegian population of Bergen, St Mary"s Church was taken over by the city"s large German population in 1408. By belonging to the wealthy Germans, St Mary"s is richly adorned and escaped the fate of being turned into a ruin, unlike several of the other churches in the city. Not until 1874, long after the German domination in the city had vanished, did it again become an ordinary parish church, even though sermons were held in German until after the First World War. The most recent restoration of St Mary"s, led by architect Christian Christie, lasted from 1863–1876. The church will be closed for restoration work, Jan 2010 until 2015

St Mary"s Church is a two-towered, three-naved, mainly Romanesque style church. The eastern part of the choir shows some Gothic influence reminiscent of the Haakon"s Hall, likely caused by the reconstruction after the 1248 fire. The church is constructed mainly in soapstone, the oldest parts being built of the highest quality soapstone. Shale is used sporadically. At least three different types of soapstone is used, and it is likely that the stone comes from several different quarries in the district.

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Founded: 1130s
Category: Religious sites in Norway

Rating

4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Oddbjørn Strand-Angermann (13 months ago)
Not only Bergen' oldest, but also most beautiful building. After the most recent restauration there is a brighter interior. Also a beautiful setting for a concert, and unlike the other old churches with their torture pews, this church has fairly comfortable chairs.
Rohitbaliyanihm “rohit kumar” (19 months ago)
When ever I go through this location it is amazing ,peacefull and one of unique church ,it is sutitude on big area and kind of middle of every direction of road pointing it.Behind the bryggen and sounding by luxury hotels and restaurant like Redison.Feel always good and peace ✌.
Melina Gousti (2 years ago)
We had the baptisment of our daughter Laila-Elleni in this church and I loved it because of our priest!!! She was a lovely young woman (if I remember correctly her name was Anna) ? she made our day to feel even more special!!! The church is beautiful anyhow because of the story and the feeling that gives you when you are there!!!!!
Monika O'Brien (2 years ago)
Amazing place. No photos inside allowed. Information point inside. You can borrow there printed sheet in a few different languages to learn more. Restricted opening hours, Tuesdays and Fridays only.
Casualkuffar (3 years ago)
Great Christmas reading with the Anglican church choir
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